Reflecting on 2 Different Hospital Visits With My Son With Down Syndrome

I remember the moment when the doctor handed Jim and I a small slip of white paper with our son David’s genetic test results. We were in a very tiny room with just a bench for seating. No comfy chairs, no padding, just a plank wide enough to hold two people. No window, no pretty art work. Just four sterile white walls and the door, which was also very white. The doctor handed us the paper saying, “It’s confirmed, trisonomy 21 (Down syndrome, when the 21st chromosome splits three times), feel free to take a moment and I will see you outside when you are ready.”

Mother with her son
Julie and her son, David.

I remember wanting to ask for a bottle of white-out. I wanted to open the bottle of white creamy liquid, take that small slip of paper, run my finger down the genetic profile to the three black lines at the 21st chromosome and gently blot away the third line. Simply erase one and make three become the two. I will never forget that white room or those three black lines.

But what’s most important is what happened next. Holding onto the paper, Jim and I hugged, and then together wept. When the tears slowed, we looked at each other and without hesitation made a mutual pact we were going to bring home our son and love him with everything we had in us.

Now, almost two decades later, I was recently reminded that life, like it has so many times throughout the years, comes full circle. Earlier this month, it was David, Jim and I again at a hospital. But this time, the room was colorfully painted. The sun was shining in the windows. The walls were covered with art. I was now the patient, recovering from surgery, with Jim there visiting me. This time, it wasn’t a doctor delivering us news. It was David himself, visiting as part of his internship distributing magazines to patients. And this time, there was only happiness at seeing David and his beautiful smile, along with pride for all that he has accomplished.

But most of all, there was the joy of our son, complete with his extra chromosome, who has brought so much love and meaning to our lives and those who know him.

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